Reply To: Get Quiet Procedure

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I have similar quiet signals which usually work, but I find that if for whatever reason the kids are not getting quiet right away, I just start pointing out and/or thanking kids who are giving me their attention and sitting quietly (“Jimmy is ready for our next activity,” “The first row looks ready,” “Thanks for getting your music out without talking, Allison,” etc.), and then the other kids start to quiet down w/o my having to say anything else. Also, we have a school-wide positive behavior program, where we can recognize students who are caught doing the right thing–we have specific behavior traits we’re focusing on, including respect, teamwork, responsibility, etc.–and when we notice a student who is exhibiting this behavior trait we can reward them with a token (they save the tokens towards rewards they can purchase at the end of the month). Usually if some kids are talking, I’ll just start handing out tokens to the kids around them who ARE quiet and ready to listen and thanking them for being respectful listeners or for being responsible about following the instructions about going to their seats quietly, or whatever, and then everybody else shuts up as soon as they notice this. After I do this a couple times, I rarely have to stop again. Also, I’ve found that if I occasionally give the older kids a chance to very briefly socialize but with a purpose–such as, “Discuss with your neighbor what instruments you’re hearing” or “Decide with your neighbor whether these patterns sound the same or different and show the hand signs for your answer”–and they get a few seconds to talk here and there, that indulges their need to chat, and you’re actually getting something done in the process. 🙂

Also, I find it helps to keep talking to a minimum during transitions if I give the students something specific to do while moving from one area of the room to the other–if we’re going up to make a circle or back to seats after being in another part of the room, I’ll have students either sing the song we were working on one more time as they’re moving, or sing the next song we’re going to work on, or have them count in tempo on the resting tone of the song we just sang–I usually give them something more challenging so that their brains are engaged, such as counting backwards for kindergarten, counting by 2’s or 5’s for 1st/2nd grade, counting by 3’s for 3rd grade, etc. If I hear people chatting instead of singing or counting, I have them go back and try it again. Also, since I’ve started to be a real stickler about their not talking while moving around the room (either while dancing to recorded music, or movement activities that go with a song that they or I are singing), it’s virtually eliminated the issue. The first time I hear it, I stop the activity immediately–just call out “freeze” and have them stop wherever they are–and ask them to tell me why I stopped (they ALWAYS know). They get that one warning, and then if it happens again I stop the activity for good and have them return to their seats. It’s really rare that in subsequent weeks I need more than that one warning, if that, for them to keep quiet.

And I try to set the tone from the second they enter the room, or even out in the hall–if I know I have an especially chatty class, I’ll step out in the hall before they come in and make sure I have everyone’s attention forward and that they are completely quiet before I let them come in the room. If they start talking on their way in, I have them line back up and take them out to try it again. I always have music playing as they enter, and I’ll usually have something for them to do with the music as soon as they reach their spots–either finding the beat, echoing rhythm patterns or reading rhythms from flash cards in tempo with the music, or I might ask them questions about the music or the composer/style of music if they’ve heard it before–so I try to get them engaged from the moment they enter the room to set the expectations for the rest of the period. If they come in chatty and unfocused and you have to begin class by getting their attention so you can start, they will usually tend to stay that way.

Additionally, I find that if I sing instructions as much as possible, rather than just saying everything I need to say, they tend to pay closer attention. They are so used to being talked at all day long that sometimes they start to tune it out and talk over top of it… but since someone singing to them in a conversational way is much more novel, it grabs their attention better (and it’s easier on your voice than talking is, too). I just kind of improvise on and around the resting tone of whatever song we just sang/are going to sing. Just keeping things moving and keeping them actively performing really helps too–if they’re spending most of their time engaged in an activity where they are doing something rather than a lot of just sitting and listening, then they’re less likely to talk. And we also do activities where they really have to pay attention because I take the predictability out of it–such as activities where they have to echo or answer questions about patterns rhythm or pitch patterns (sometimes I might toss a ball or beanbag to them when it’s their turn). Sometimes I’ll have the entire class echo/respond by gesturing to them with both hands, and sometimes I’ll have individuals echo/respond by getting their eye contact and gesturing with one hand just to that one student–but I skip all over the room, I don’t just go right down the row, so they have to be watching me and staying focused to know if it’s their turn, or someone else’s turn, or everyone’s turn. It’s almost like a game because it’s a challenge for them to stay focused and they don’t know what’s going to happen next. (A couple times of somebody accidentally singing/chanting when it’s somebody else’s turn because they weren’t watching me, and then the kids who weren’t watching REALLY start watching carefully.)